Monday, November 3, 2014

African Entrepreneurs, Lets Fight Mediocrity!

Disclaimer: I am an ardent supporter of Africans and African enterprises. So this is no bash session. This experience is not the norm with ALL African restaurants States side...just a few

If God were to give me a choice to choose my origins, I would choose being African over anything else. I think we have such a beautiful, resilient, resourceful, genius, cheerful, failure-is-not-an-option Spirit. There are many many success stories of African entrepreneurs in and out of Africa doing amazing things. Could there be many more? Yes, but mediocrity is killing any ounce and chance of enterprise longevity.

Case in point: I recently went to lunch at a small African restaurant in Houston well known for their "authentic" grilled Tilapia Fish. The 1st problem I encountered even before getting there was, it was after dark and I couldn't for the life of me find this place. It was located in a very...questionable area. Call me paranoid but as a female, I got out of my car and made sure I triple locked my door. There was one street light which in reality was meant to service the gas station it was adjacent to and a non reflective business sign did not help matters. But hey, I understand not every one has a big budget to rent prime real estate, this is perfectly OK to a certain extent. So anyways, I walked in, it was a small little cozy place which I LOVED because I'm not one for mass produced-big eateries.

The Decor was something out of a dated early 1990's African living room. Zero for decor, however I loved the very laid back, communal African vibe of the other customers. It felt almost like one big family having dinner. I met up with a couple of friends who luckily had already pre-ordered the Fish so I wouldn't have to wait long. There was absolutely NO waiter/waitress out front to take orders. They pretty much had a cook and the kitchen help (an older African gentleman) who doubled over as the waiter and cashier. This was bad bad because you walked in and had to wait for God knows how long hoping you can intercept him as he served previous customers. He had zero-nil customer service. With a very neutral, indifferent stare he quietly took down your order in his head then shuffled slowly away. No friendliness, no smile, nothing. I literally had to coax a smile out of him by being very appreciative and friendly. Anyways, 10 minutes later the Fish came out. It smelt like everything I expected it to be....glorious...Or maybe it was just my hunger at that point making me salivate. First taste was great. Second taste, I paused...Why did the pepper seasoning taste spoiled, rotten, sour!? I thought I was just being too critical because as an ardent cook myself, I know how things should taste like.  I tried the "Suya" and I almost spat it out. Yuck! It was spoiled. First of all, they used BBQ brisket and just chopped it up as suya!?? Who does that? Such a sham. I understand trying to cut corners, but that was downright deceptive. I am the biggest BBQ lover and I know my meat. Fast forward to the next day, I spent half my morning on the toilet seat. Yes people, it was that bad.

My critic is not the first, I know many many people who say the same thing about most African restaurateurs in Texas. As much as I would love to support my fellow small time African Restaurateurs, I have to say, to eat at one of these eateries is a major liability in itself. Why are you serving me rotten food? How wrong can you go with roasted Fish? And why do we as a community continue to endorse this mediocrity?